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Exclusive: Nicolas Kent on programming the Not Black And White season

Published 6 October 2009

Kilburn’s Tricycle theatre has a reputation for producing topical and political work. As it prepares to open its new season, Artistic Director Nicolas Kent explains how it was conceived:

Three years ago the Tricycle theatre launched a four month season with a black ensemble company premiering three plays chronicling the African-American experience in the 20th century.  The season drew large audiences and was a critical success.

As we approached the end of the first decade of the 21st century, and across London black and Asian children outnumber white British children by about six to four, I thought it important and challenging to look at the society in which we live from the perspective of black writers.

The Tricycle theatre already had a strong relationship with both Roy Williams and Kwame Kwei-Armah, having premiered plays by both writers, as well as both of them being members of our Bloomberg Playwrights Group, so it seemed natural to approach them first.

They were both very enthusiastic about the idea, and at our first meeting we agreed the areas of British life each would choose as subjects. We also all felt it was essential to have a woman’s voice and all three of us had been very impressed by Bola Agbaje’s first play Gone Too Far, so I was delegated to approach her with a commission to make up the trilogy.

Late last year the four of us had a meeting to define the subject of each play and the size, gender and racial composition of the company. As the commissions were delivered in the spring and summer of this year, and each went through various different drafts I started to think of a collective title for the season.

Not Black And White seemed to encapsulate the ambition of the season: not just because of the ambiguities and complexities that a culturally diverse 21st century London and the plays represented, but also because these views by black playwrights refreshingly did not reference white Londoners and the white establishment. Instead they focussed primarily on black relationships, as well as black and Asian relationships

My hope, and that of the playwrights, is that these plays are for London now and that they reflect the excitement, the complexities and difficulties that a diverse city and society face as we end the first decade of this new millennium.

Nicolas Kent
Artistic Director Tricycle Theatre

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